An Open Letter to the Interim Executive Director of Greener Village
As I expect was the case with some others who continue to be troubled with what is going on with Greener Village, I listened with interest to the report on CBC Information Morning in Fredericton earlier this week.
In it, reporter Elizabeth Fraser talked about her interviews with volunteers, donors and with the interim Executive Director Alex Boyd, who is also chairman of the Greener Village Board, which is now totally made up of members from a handful of families from the 7th Day Adventist Church. More on him in a moment but first, about the volunteers and donors.
Fraser’s reporting confirmed what most of us had heard or suspected, with volunteers expressing concern for the future of Greener Village. They talked about how the facility had a clear vision of what is was doing, and where it was going, when Elizabeth Crawford Thurber was running it. But they say that since her firing last June, volunteers, like everyone else have been kept in the dark about why she was let go, and the lack of transparency has them worried about the facility’s future. Some have stopped volunteering because of what has happened there.
For donors, it’s a similar story. Concern and soul searching over whether to continue supporting Greener Village. Some have stopped. One former donor explained that her pocketbook was the only means she had to try to make the church accountable. Others are continuing but only because of the thousands of clients who need the help Greener Village offers, not because they are OK with the new management. It’s an awful dilemma for them.
A part of the CBC item that especially resonated with me was a piece of audio from Alex Boyd where he said something to the effect that people have to realize that nothing nefarious has happened and that this is not about church control. But he refused yet again to address Thurber’s dismissal saying it is a confidential HR issue. He also said changes are coming and that he is hopeful they will fix the trust issues.
Since he wants to restore trust, I would like to help. So the rest of this blog will be on open letter to the interim Executive Director.
Dear Mr. Boyd,
I heard you on CBC talking about your concern that Greener Village volunteers and donors don’t have confidence in you or your church-run board. I can imagine how bad it must feel not to be trusted. I have some suggestions for dealing with that but first, can I call you Alex? We only met briefly, at a meeting but you left abruptly after the word went around that your church board had just fired Elizabeth. So we didn’t really talk, but I have been following the Greener Village story since that day last June, so I feel that in at least some tiny way I know you. So I will assume I can be so informal as to call you Alex.
So Alex, to regain the trust of volunteers and donors the number one thing you have to do is stop with the convenient but inaccurate dodge that Thurber’s firing can’t be discussed because it is a confidential HR issue. As you well know, she waived her right to confidentiality on that long ago. True the details of the settlement are confidential, but not the reasons behind the firing. Make no mistake – you are free to discuss that. We do know it was an unfair firing because you have had to shell out in the unfair dismissal action.
The rumour mill is rife with speculation, including that the firing by the church board, of which you are the chair and your mother-in-law is a member, was really prompted by the fact you had been unemployed for well over a year, and the firing of Elizabeth was to clear the way for you to land a job. Clearing that up could go a long way. And while you are at it, explain how you as an unemployed lineman, have the experience necessary to run the operation. As many people who are familiar with such operations can attest, Elizabeth’s skillset and network was extensive, and combined with her vision and dedication, resulted in her transforming the food bank from handing out boxes of food in a church packing lot to what is now Greener Village with its food bank, teaching kitchen, gardens and clothing depot, and the whole operation being financially secure. Not just anyone could have pulled that off. You know all this Alex, but you need to convince people that, to use your words, her firing wasn’t “anything nefarious”, and also throw in why you of all people are now doing the job – you know – the need for necessary qualifications and all.
That’s the first thing Alex, but it is so important that if you can’t address that, you will never be positioned to deal with any of the other issues. For example the board.
You told CBC that there was a legal reason your board could only be made up of people who were members of the 7th Day Adventist Church. And that that is why you kicked all the community members off the board. This after community members had been on the board for years. So you can understand how the timing looks suspicious. You kick off all the community members, all of whom I highly suspect would have supported Elizabeth, but with them gone, no problem – easy then to throw Elizabeth out. See how that kind of doesn’t smell right Alex?
Now you say changes are coming, including adding community representation on your board, once you get the bylaw forbidding them changed. Then you said you will be looking for people who care about the work of helping people. Alex, here’s a flash for you – You had caring people, it’s just that you and your board didn’t care for them. So rather than changing the bylaw then, you changed the people, booting off people who cared, but didn’t belong to your church. So now that you say you want caring people from the community, I’m guessing just not those caring people. The community, being suspicious, will probably think what you will really be looking for are people who won’t rock the boat, not the type that would have rebelled at the thought of kicking to the curb your Executive Director, who was probably the ultimate caring person.
Finding caring people who don’t care about actions like that will be a tall order Alex, probably impossible. Not sure where you are going to find them. But nor does it matter, unless you address the root of this issue – why you fired Elizabeth?
Alex, if you aren’t going to address that, everything else is moot.
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